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Full text of "Rapid Population Growth Consequences And Policy Implications"

fertility, efforts to that effect represent pure costs the reduction of which is desirable per se.
As to the magnitude of such costs and, by the same token, as to the potential increase in "consumers' surplus" that may be derived from the provision of improved techniques, it is enough to refer to the high prices paid, often by the poor, for abortions in countries in which abortions are illegal, and to the historical experience of European populations who achieved fertility control by voluntary means and in the face of social disapproval by methods involving heavy psychic disutilities. If past developments are a guide, the potential pecuniary benefits from research and development in reducing (for a given level of effectiveness, safety, and acceptability) the cost of contraceptives and the amount of personal services required are also large. These arguments seem to establish a solid case for more investment in this field, but in the absence of market tests, naturally the usual difficulties prevail in finding the optimal level.
Birth Control Services without Persuasion. It follows from the logic of the pure no-externalities model that "propaganda" of any form should be absent from it. The information offered should be strictly factual and the means for birth control should be provided cafeteria-style and without fancy packaging. To introduce elements of propaganda or even "persuasion" could be justified only on a frankly paternalistic basis, i.e., on the assumption that the leaders of society, or the elite, somehow know better what is good for the people, or rather that they know it now while the people will know it only later when, like children who grow up and in retrospect are grateful for the firm paternal guidance, they will give a more enthusiastic blessing than they would have earlier. It is difficult to deny that, in a society that expects to undergo rapid economic development which necessarily involves drastic changes in tastes in a fairly predictable direction, there is some element of plausibility in such elitist notions. Yet the argument is evidently a tenuous one; moreover the implied policy is likely to be effective only if the elite has a monopoly on the means of communication. At least, those invoking the argument should be required to be explicit about their assumptions.
In the light of the points just outlined, a double policy conclusion would follow from the no-externalities model. First, societies should leave families free to determine what level of fertility they wish to choose, and second, society should provide the best available information and means to make that freedom meaningful. Broadly speaking, these are the traditional principles followed by the planned parenthood movement and the avowed objectives of practically all governmental family planning programs currently in existence. It is evident, however, that very few countries come even near to fulfilling these ideals. An effective freedom with access to the best of modern tech-